Mary Arrigan has two very special books for children with a magical imagination.
Magical Celtic Tales by Una leavy (O’Brien, €14.99)
Magical is the best description for this sparkling collection of tales from Celtic lands from the Isle of Mann to Brittany. The Magic Pail is a beautiful moral story from Cornwall where a childless couple, Jenny and Jack, adopt a fairy child who brings with her a magic pail. In this pail Tamsyn brings home many wonders from her walks. One such gift is a long-eared hare who seems bound for the cooking pot but her father is prevailed upon to release him. When Jenny suggests that Tamsyn bring home her true self in the pail it leads to Tamsyn returning to her real home — fairyland.
However, the arrival of a baby for Jenny and Jack sees the traditional all-lived-happily- ever-after ending. Not all the tales are as gentle, as giants have to be overcome and dragons encouraged to fight for a country’s honour. The narration is down-to-earth, with many of the stories ending on a personal note asking the reader to consider what they think will happen next. The atmospheric pen and wash illustrations by Fergal O’Connor, framed with Celtic motifs and borders, evoke a mysterious and magical era. Suitable for age 10 and up.
The Song From Somewhere Else by AF Harrold (Bloomsbury, €14.90 HB)
Young Frank’s life is miserable as she stutters her way through a nightmare of being bullied at school by Neil Noble’s gang. To make matters worse, her beloved cat goes missing, but when out putting up missing posters she is rescued from the bullies by loner Nicholas. Slowly their friendship grows and she is captivated by haunting melodies she hears in his house. Eventually she realises the music is coming from their cellar and when she goes to investigate she is intrigued by what she finds.
Nick is in no way upset that she knows his secret but the bullies make it their business to find out what is going on. What begins as a story of bullying becomes a whirlpool of mystery as Frank tries to undo the damage she has done. A magic story of friendship and love, with atmospheric black and white illustrations by Levi Pinfold. Age 10 and up.
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